First-term Lakeland City Commissioner Chad McLeod faces two challengers for the At-Large Seat 2. All seven members of the commission are elected citywide, with four representing specific districts and two filling at-large seats; the seventh member is the mayor, who chairs the commission.

Read on to learn about the three candidates and their views on city government.

Why this matters: City commissioners are elected to set policy for Lakeland’s municipal government and its $747 million budget on a multitude of issues that include police and fire protection, growth and development, transportation, recreation, and utilities — including water and electricity.

City commission races are non-partisan. Commissioners’ pay for 2023-24 is $32,639 with an expense allowance of $1,800.

On this page: Kay Klymko | Chad McLeod | Dennis Odisho | News & videos
Also: Compare candidates’ answers | How, when and where to vote | Campaign finance

All candidates in both City Commission races on this year’s ballot responded to a LkldNow questionnaire. Their responses are presented as submitted without editing. They are listed in alphabetical order:

Kay Klymko

Age: 73 | Occupation: Family Nurse Practitioner and Retired University Professor

Kay graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science degree and Wayne State University (WSU) with both a Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degree in Nursing with specialty study area in gerontology. She has attended the Florida Institue of Political Leadership offered through the State of Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Brief biography:
Kay Klymko has over 40 years of progressive experience in Hospital Administration, University Education and Administration, Advanced Nursing Practice, Community Health Care, and Research serving both rural and urban communities in Michigan and Florida. Kay retired from WSU in Detroit, Michigan as an Associate Clinical Professor and Director of the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Program. Moreover, she has over twenty years’ business experience with her husband as an owner and operator of a small retail business. Kay has a servant heart who has especially enjoyed serving the most vulnerable, fragile, and marginalized populations from the youngest to the oldest with a desire for inclusiveness of all.

Campaign website | Facebook | Instagram

Campaign slogan:
Building a Better Lakeland Together

Civic involvement:
1975- 2023 American Nurses Association
1977-1979 Graduate Professional Nurse Traineeship Award, United States Public Health Service and Graduate
Division, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.
1979-2023 Sigma Theta Tau; Lambda Chapter Nursing Honorary Society
1980-1982 Michigan Association of Rural Health Care, Board of Director
1982-1984 Council of Nurses in Advanced Practice, Michigan Nurses Association, Secretary
1986-2014 American Academy Nurse Practitioners
1992 Special Advocate for Children, St. Clair County Child Abuse and Neglect Center, Port Huron, MI.
1995-1998 Comprehensive Community Health Models of St. Clair County in Partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI. Project Champion: School Health Initiative Project
1995 Golden Nugget Award, Council for Exceptional Children, Blue Water Area, Intermediate School District, St. Clair Country, MI.
1996 Excellence in Nursing Practice Award, Sigma Theta Tau, Tau Rho Chapter, University of Michigan
1998 Outstanding Volunteer Award, Comprehensive Community Health Models of St. Clair County in Partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, MI.
2002-2005 Trainee in National Institute supported Research Training Program in Aging and Urban Health, Institute of Gerontology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.
2005 Outstanding Student Involvement and Leadership Award, Alumni Association, College of Nursing, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.
2005 Spirit of Detroit Award, Detroit City Council, Detroit, MI.
2005-2014 Midwest Nursing Research Society
2007- 2009 Board of Directors: Sigma Theta Tau; Lambda Chapter
2008-2010 Gerontological Society of America
2013 Faculty Poster Presentation Award, College of Nursing, Research Day (April 3, 2013), Wayne State University Detroit, MI.
2014 Beaumont Health System 2014 Nurses Week Poster Award (May 2, 2014), Beaumont Health System’s Corporate Research Day, Royal Oak, MI.
2014 American Geriatrics Society
2022-2023 First United Methodist Church Lakeland Member and Volunteer Polk Ecumenical Action Council for Empowerment (Affordable Housing), Volunteer for kidsPACK, United Women in Faith member and Womens’ Circle.
2023 Florida Institute of Political Leadership, State of Florida Chamber of Commerce
2023 AL-2 Candidate for Lakeland City Commissioner, Lakeland, Florida

I trust in the endorsement of the people on November 7th!


1. What is the main barrier keeping Lakeland from being a more livable city? How can you as a city commissioner help solve it?

I believe Lakeland is a livable city at this time for many residents, but there are areas for improvement to make it more livable for all. The population density and resulting congestion is a problem for safety, security, and competitiveness in affordable housing and employment. Affordable housing needs to have continued advocacy. Road improvements, maintenance, and more energy efficiency can leave an environmentally friendly footprint. We need a public-private partnership to address the homelessness in our city along with a standing committee of the city commission to work with current organizations for humane 24-hour service. Our population is aging with 40 % of people above age 50, many of which are being sandwiched with care of older and younger family members. I advocate for the partnership with Vision for a senior service center.

2. Lakeland’s rapid growth is adding stress to roads and other infrastructure. What are your priorities in dealing with growth?

Public safety infrastructure needs to grow with the city just like water, sewer, and electric. It is one of the most important aspects of our community. We need additional personnel and structures for the growth of public safety to include our fire and police departments. The need for Station 8 has been identified since 2018 and now its 2023. We must hold our commission accountable for the status of station 8 plans. One of my top priorities is to get this station in operation as rapidly as possible. Human life in the NW district depends on it.

3. Is there something that Lakeland’s city government is doing that should be ended? What is it? Is there something the city isn’t doing that should be added? If so, what is it and why is it needed?

We need to allocate funds to appropriate human priorities first. Although we love our dog parks, perhaps we should put issues such as human dignity, public safety, and mental health as a priority!

4. What do you bring to the City Commission that has been missing?

I bring a fresh perspective that is unique and not currently present in the commission. My lifetime experiences in the administration, coordination, and provision of human services positions me to efficiently analyze complex data and make responsible decisions that represent our people. I have the knowledge of how to effectively approach problem solving, conduct research on best practices, and bring to the table the best solutions that are available. I am a team player with respectful communications and willing to navigate complex negotiations.

5. What is your assessment of your opponents and the kind of city commissioners they would be?

I have not had the opportunity to discuss my opponents’ views on the issues that confront our community’s future. I look forward to upcoming forums and debates to better understand their positions and how our approaches may differ or where there are commonalities. I have to believe we are all working towards making a better Lakeland.

Chad McLeod

Age: 41 | Occupation: Public Relations & Communications

University of Florida, Bachelor of Science in Public Relations, 2004
Florida State University, Master of Business Administration (MBA), 2010

Brief biography:
Lakeland City Commissioner Chad McLeod is a Polk County native and 4th-generation Floridian who began his first term on the commission in 2020.

Chad developed a passion for public service and policy while working on the staff of U.S. Senator Mel Martinez from 2005 to 2010. He spent nearly 10 years as an entrepreneur and small business owner, running a Lakeland-based PR and communications consulting firm that worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500 brands to local nonprofits. In 2022, he joined the communications team for Compassion International, a global child development nonprofit.

Chad and his wife, Erin, have three children, Samuel, Charlee and Asher. They are members of Trinity Presbyterian Church and are licensed foster parents. He is an avid runner and loves running the streets of Lakeland.

Campaign website | Facebook | X/Twitter | Instagram

Campaign slogan:
A Voice for Lakeland’s Future

Civic involvement:
As a commissioner, Chad serves on multiple committees and councils, including the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) Advisory Board, Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, Central Florida Regional Development Council and Polk Transportation Planning Organization. He is also the chair of the Finance Committee and the commission’s representative to the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council.

  • Trinity Presbyterian Church — member, community group leader, children’s ministry volunteer
  • Heartland for Children — member of the Foster Parents Advisory Council
  • Swan City Soccer — volunteer youth soccer coach
  • Florida Public Relations Association (Dick Pope/Polk County Chapter) — member



1. What is the main barrier keeping Lakeland from being a more livable city? How can you as a city commissioner help solve it?

In many ways, Lakeland is a very livable city. We have great amenities at an affordable cost of living compared to many cities in Florida. The area that I see that would make Lakeland more livable is connectivity throughout the city. While we use the word connectivity often in planning discussions, it can be challenging and costly to connect different parts of the city in ways that can be easily reached by different modes of transportation.

Our recent discussions about improving pedestrian and bicycle access to Bonnet Springs Park is a great example. As the west side of downtown sees more redevelopment and new projects, there is an opportunity for us to improve the connections not only to Bonnet Springs but also to the other side of Florida Avenue and into the heart of downtown. If re-elected, I will continue to advocate for well-planned connectivity that makes it easier to get around Lakeland.

2. Lakeland’s rapid growth is adding stress to roads and other infrastructure. What are your priorities in dealing with growth?

My priorities in dealing with growth include:

Major roadway improvements, including the I4/State Road 33 interchange redesign, South Wabash Avenue extension, Lakeland Park Connector Drive project, and additional intersection improvements such as the planned roundabout south of Bonnet Springs Park.

Water and wastewater infrastructure updates. The decisions we make now related to planning for future waste and wastewater needs are among the most important we face. For example, the wastewater master plan that the city is currently developing to make sure we’re adequately planning for future wastewater capacity is a critical project that will help us move forward as a city.

Strong regional and state partnerships. As many of our infrastructure needs involve the county and state, it is essential that our city commissioners keep our partnerships strong with Polk County commissioners, state legislators and leaders at key agencies such as the Florida Dept. of Transportation.

3. Is there something that Lakeland’s city government is doing that should be ended? What is it? Is there something the city isn’t doing that should be added? If so, what is it and why is it needed?

As a city, Lakeland does many things well. If you had asked this question several months ago, I would have said we need to find ways to engage more youth — more young leaders — with our city government. I’m excited that we recently established Lakeland’s first Youth Council, made up of 15 high school students who will have the opportunity not only to learn about all things Lakeland government, but they will provide ideas and recommendations to the city commission.

Something we’re not doing yet that I hope to see in the near future is bringing a commercial airline to the Lakeland airport. This has been an area of focus since I joined the commission in 2020, and I’m hopeful that we will make this happen soon. Having the option to fly commercially from Lakeland would be a benefit to many of our residents.

4. What do you bring to the City Commission that has been missing?

We are fortunate as a city to have a commission that works well together. Everyone brings a different perspective and background into each issue we address. The one area that I think I’ve been able to bring to the commission is an ability to strengthen our outreach to Lakeland’s Hispanic community. Having lived in Venezuela in college, where I learned to speak Spanish, has given me a connection to the Hispanic culture. Lakeland and Polk County have seen significant growth in the number of Hispanic residents in recent years, and it’s been exciting to find ways to improve our city’s engagement in this area.

It’s an honor to serve as our commission’s representative to the Mayor’s Hispanic Advisory Council, which is planning to host the city’s first bilingual town hall — focusing on the theme of “getting to know your city government” — sometime later this year.

5. What is your assessment of your opponents and the kind of city commissioners they would be?

I didn’t know Kay or Dennis before they entered the race in September, so I’m still learning about them. However, they both seem to have strong professional backgrounds and a passion for the City of Lakeland.

Dennis Odisho

Age: 44 | Occupation: Business Strategy Senior Manager

Purdue University Bachelor’s Degree

Brief biography:
Construction Executive with 25 years of field and operational experience. Highly skilled negotiator, team builder, and leader. I began my career as a laborer in Northwest Indiana building bridges and roads while paying my way through college. Upon graduation I moved to Florida in 2004 and continued my career in the construction industry working my way up to the executive level of one of the nation’s largest and most respected construction management firms. I am the proud father of a rambunctious 8 year old boy and love to fish, hunt, ride motocross, and give back to the communities I work and live in. I’m a firm believer in the power of people and have been guided by the golden rule in all of my personal and professional dealings.

Campaign website | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn

Campaign slogan:
I’m not a fan of catchy campaign slogans. I believe in the vision, strategy, and process of making things better with a detailed plan that is measurable.

Civic involvement:
Program Advisory Council Everglades University Tampa, Construction Management Program
Former AdventHealth West Florida Foundation Board of Directors
Current Lakeland Regional Health Foundation Board of Directors
Commencement Speaker 2022 Everglades University Tampa Graduation Ceremony
Keynote Speaker AdventHealth West Florida
Former Boys Varsity Soccer Head Coach Spoto High School, Riverview Florida
Former Boys Varsity Assistant Head Coach Robinson High School, Tampa, Florida
Lakeland Citizen’s Academy 2023

In my business I’m very cautious about aligning myself with companies or individuals I don’t completely know, trust, or align with as a majority of the work I do is on behalf of the sick, elderly, and vulnerable population while constructing projects in a healthcare environment. I have to surround myself with the most qualified firms in our business to ensure the safety of the patients, staff, and visitors while we work in occupied areas of the hospitals we serve. As a No Party Affiliation candidate I obligate myself to the people of Lakeland and haven’t focused on PAC’s, professional organizations, or individuals that would potentially try to influence the way I vote on matters concerning the future of our city. A Commissioner’s responsibility is to make sound decisions based upon the best interest of the citizens of Lakeland, not the special interests of a particular party or PAC.


1. What is the main barrier keeping Lakeland from being a more livable city? How can you as a city commissioner help solve it?

Lakeland is one of the fastest growing cities in the country and we need someone that has experience with construction and development, business development, team building, and a proactive, not reactive, approach to growth. Our city will continue to grow and we must be prepared to facilitate that growth in order to maintain the quality of life we’ve all come to love while living in Swan City. We need to ensure the assets we own in our city do not become liabilities by continuously subsidizing them and propping them up with taxpayer dollars. We need to ensure our infrastructure has the ability to support the growth that is coming to our city and create strategic alliances with national, brand name firms and facilitate their entry into our market so our citizens have high paying and livable wage paying jobs. And we can do this while respecting our history and maintaining our identity.

2. Lakeland’s rapid growth is adding stress to roads and other infrastructure. What are your priorities in dealing with growth?

We need to act in the best interest of the city’s future and be prepared to make tough decisions that will benefit not only our current citizens, but future citizens as well. Before we approve large residential developments, we need to ensure these developers are prepared to commit to their fair share of the costs required to make our streets safer and more navigable. Smart growth is the key and we need to negotiate deals that favor our taxpayers in a open and transparent matter in which everyone has the ability to voice their opinion. There are cities in our region that have not managed this rapid growth properly, and not only have they lost their identity as a city, but gridlock and accidents are a common and expected way of life. By keeping our CRA Development plan current and staying up to date on the latest technology to utilize the latest maintenance of traffic technology and plans we can anticipate and support the future growth that is coming.

3. Is there something that Lakeland’s city government is doing that should be ended? What is it? Is there something the city isn’t doing that should be added? If so, what is it and why is it needed?

I don’t believe in subsidizing city parks, entertainment facilities, or negotiating contracts that aren’t favorable to the citizens we represent and their tax dollars. I believe in leveraging city owned property and facilities and working with private sector firms to upgrade, renovate, manage, and promote them to enhance our image to the outside communities and bring talent, high paying jobs, and events that people want to attend and invest in. We need to provide entertainment, shopping, and dining options to our citizens and keep the money we as Lakelanders spend in Lakeland and not other municipalities. I believe we can create micro-districts that provide a village type feel with local business owners for grocery, dining, and entertainment and promote these districts with respect to the current residents and history of the neighborhoods.

4. What do you bring to the City Commission that has been missing?

I moved from a town of 30,000 people in a blue collar region of Northwest Indiana where people brought their lunch to work. An overwhelmingly majority of people work in the Steel Mills. We tighten our belts and budgets when the economy begins to falter and have to make the tough decision to ensure our families are fed and the bills are paid. There is a clear time and place for needs and wants and we grew up knowing this and we rallied together to ensure the community survived intact. I will represent the City of Lakeland in the same manner, making sound decisions based upon the current economy and with the best interest of our citizens in mind. My experience as a construction executive, negotiating almost $800 million dollars worth of contracts, establishing firms, building teams of subcontractors, architects and engineers and managing projects in excess of $100 millions dollars while maintaining schedule, scope, quality, and budget and have made me uniquely prepared for this.

5. What is your assessment of your opponents and the kind of city commissioners they would be?

I do not know my opponents personally or professionally, therefor it wouldn’t be proper of me to assume what type of commissioners they would be.

News coverage, forum videos

  • High-Stakes Week For Lakeland Candidates Yields Strong Moments – and Few Stumbles | LkldNow, Oct. 15
  • Read Is Reelected; Six Vie for Two City Commission Seats | LkldNow, Sept. 22
  • Three city commission seats up for grabs in upcoming Lakeland election | The Ledger, Aug. 23
  • City Elections: Simmons Draws Two Challengers; Two Commissioners Remain Unopposed | LkldNow, Aug. 10

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Barry Friedman founded in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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